In early 2017, my mental health had taken a drastic downturn when on top of everything, my guinea pig, Lily, died. I remember weeping in the vet’s surgery as we prepared to put her down, wondering how I would cope without her little squeaks and snuffles.
In August 2018, her friend, Maggie, died quietly one morning. It was a much more peaceful passing than Lily’s, but it was a huge blow. My mum had died only a couple of months before, and as I stroked Maggie’s soft fur as we prepared to bury her, I reflected that I could have done with her cuddles for a while longer.
As 2018 wore on, I knew I wanted another animal in my life, but one that lived longer than a guinea pig. I decided on a cat, and at the end of December we brought Melody home. She is now nearly 2 years old and I wanted to share the ways that she and other pets can help our mental health.
They relax us for sleep
If I can’t drop off, Melody will hop on the bed and her soft purrs will help me drift off. Just looking at her, eyes closed, breathing heavily, totally contented, makes me feel sleepier! Stroking her fur also helps to calm my anxiety.
They know how to do life
Have you ever looked at your pet and thought, they have this life thing sorted? They don’t stress, they get enough sleep, they don’t care about what others think, they have a heart full of love…. Sometimes we could take a leaf out of their book.
They don’t judge
Your pet loves you, full stop. You don’t have to impress them or get dressed up for them. If you’re having a bad day, if it’s 2pm and you’re in your pj’s, they won’t judge or make you feel bad for it. They’re more likely to curl up next to you than tell you to get dressed.
They give you a routine
At times, especially during lockdown, it can be hard to look after our mental health and little things can go out of the window. But your pet forces you to keep a routine going because they still have to be fed, they still need a walk, they still need to have their cage or litter tray cleaned. You might struggle to brush your teeth, but your pet will keep you going in other ways!
You can tell them your problems
Now I’m not saying that they’re a substitute for professional advice, but they do provide a listening ear. If like me, you struggle to talk about things, then your pet can hear about your problem and you might then feel more confident about approaching a friend or relative next. Plus you are guaranteed 100% confidentiality by speaking to your furry friend. If you feel silly talking to your pet, just remember that some practitioners actually recommend it!
How does your pet help your mental health?